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2004 Independent Game of the Year (Posted Dec 31, 2004) Printer Friendly Page

2004 Top 10 Games of the Year

For all those who think that the best games that came out this year were all sequels Game Tunnel presents a different look at the best of 2004. Game Tunnel has put together its list of the top 10 indie games this year, and it is sure to have a few gems that you probably haven't even heard.

While mainstream gaming has seemingly given up on innovation and embraced instead rehashing old ideas over and over again until you can barely tell the titles apart, Indie gaming has presented another fine crop of games that will give you multiple gaming experiences that you won't find anywhere else in addition to taking some older concepts to new heights. With an increasing number of professional developers who have responded to the mainstreams strangling advances on innovation by creating Indie games by going it alone the quality of the Indie games released this year has improved greatly.

Without further ado, I give you the Top 10 Indie Games of 2004:

Want to see it instead of reading it?  See the Top 5 in an interview given on G4 TV

Number 10 - I of the Enemy

Developer: Enemy Technology Players: 1-8 (LAN)
Release: November 2004
System Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, 400MHz Pentium II , 128 MB of RAM, DirectX 8+

I of the Enemy is a Real Time Strategy game that presents many different mission types, such as delaying convoys and other specific objectives. Players use some persistent units, who gain experience and ability over time, which leads to a portion of your team having a little bit of familiarity as you move on through the many levels broken into 3 chapters in the game. In addition LAN play is available allowing 8 players to play together and against each other in fantastic futuristic Sci-Fi battles.

Really though, the first thing you'll notice when you play Enemy Technology's "I of the Enemy" or even got to their website is the absolutely amazing quality of the audio. The voice work in the game and music are wonderfully done. The first time I put this game in, I heard from the other side of the room: "is that one of your indie games?" The person, who has watched hundreds of indie games come through my computer in the last few years, was visibly shocked by what they were hearing, and with good reason. The sound in I of the Enemy is crystal clear and very professionally done.

This comes out probably most forcefully with the main character of the game, Verkkal, who is voiced by Ian McNeice, perhaps best known by Sci-Fi fans for his role as Baron Harkonnen in Dune. With very strong voice acting on the game that rivals anything that you'll find in mainstream gaming, and often beats it, I of the Enemy was a strong contender for the sound award before you even get to the soundtracks which are excellent.

Perhaps the most intriguing portion of the game though is its rich storyline that is full of twists that will leave players not knowing which way is up before they reach the end of it. The added cinematics, while not up to mainstream standards, go a long way in helping players understand the struggle between the races in the game and will eventually introduce a twist that is sure to make every gamer go "oh my gosh" when they realize what is happening.

The graphics in the game are closer to the old Command & Conquer games than newer games such as Warcraft III or World Fables, and while that may keep some people from checking out the game it doesn't hinder the quality of the game overall.

I of the Enemy is a game that more closely resembles mainstream games than most Indie games do, but the quality of the story and stick to-it-ness of the developers in bringing out the game and vision that they had is something that every Indie gamer will recognize as they play through this very well constructed title.

Number 9 - Revolved

Developer: Alter Ego Studios Players: 1
Release: December 2004 Download Now!
System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2K/XP, 733 Mhz, 64 MB RAM, DirectX 3.0+

It's hard to describe exactly what it is that makes Revolved work. What probably makes the game the most enjoyable is the depth of the game play that is involved.

Puzzle games come along in a nearly non-stop barrage of mostly mindless rehashes of previous concepts. While some of them, such as PopCap's Zuma Deluxe, make their money by improving those old concepts, there have been precious few concepts to come along that have been as good as Revolved. There are only two other puzzle games that have been made that have as addictive game play qualities as are found in Revolved. Those two games are Bejeweled and Tetris, but Revolved is better than either of those titles.

Playing well and quickly are both required to advance very far in Revolved. The basic games revolves around creating a square in which all four sides have the same color fuse. You can move any of the fuse squares on the board either clockwise or counterclockwise by just clicking on them with the left or right button on your mouse. The game really gets going as you become more aware of what is possible in the game.

The open-ended play allows players to do a lot of things, and gamers will find that each time they play the game they discover new ways to manipulate the pieces on the screen and claim victory over the fuses.

I personally dreamed about this game for days on end after first playing it, completing fuse boxes over and over in my head. While that may be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it, one thing isn't in doubt, this game is one of the most addictive puzzle games you will ever play and it has sucked away a lot of the time that was supposed to be spent writing these awards. For the addictiveness that Revolved shows helped it win the 2004 Puzzle Game of the Year Award and it didn't stop there, having now placed as one of the best 10 games of the year.

Number 8 - Smugglers 3

Developer: Niels Bauer Games Players: 1
Release: January 2004
System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP

Smugglers 3 is one of the more enjoyable surprises that came out this year. The game is a treat for sci-fi fans who are looking for more than action in their games. In Smugglers 3, you are a pilot in a interstellar conflict. However, instead of spending your time in non-stop battle action sequences, Smugglers 3 is based more on text.

Smugglers 3 places you in one of four factions. Each of the factions has different objectives and weapons. Playing through the game, one of your main goals is to trade goods with the various planets that you visit. This will help you to build up your funds so that you can buy better weapons and a better ship. In addition you will undertake missions that will help to increase your standing within your faction and win you medals of honor.

There are in fact action battles in the game, however, the battles consist of the player and an enemy in a turn based conflict that shows both ships, a proximity meter and the special weapons that each have available. These battles work very well by putting the player in control of all the important factors of the battle without over-involving players with minute details.

Smugglers 3 scores big points for providing such a rich storyline despite a few grammar problems that show up in the text. The story draws players in with constant updates as to where their faction lies in regards to the conflict in addition to encounters with other star vessels that further involve players and create a feeling of really being engaged in the conflict. The game offers amazing depth and development as players continue on, hiring crew and accepting ever more perilous and complicated missions throughout multiple star systems.

The graphics in the game are done quite well and do a wonderful job of keeping players focus on the systems, weapons, and peoples in the game. Each of the characters and screens is very well-rendered, and looks much better on the screen than one might expect by looking at the screenshots. The sound in the game is rather scant, but what is available is exceptionally well done. It helps provide a fantastic backdrop for the game that further sucks gamers into the on-screen conflict.

Smugglers 3 provides a different angle on the space sim, and one that works extremely well. Gamers looking for an interstellar challenge that will keep them in another world for quite some time would do themselves a favor by checking this game out.

Number 7 - Global Defense Network

Developer: Evertt Players: 1
Release: July 2004